State pushes for technology use in schools 

click to enlarge No Child Left Offline: State Superintendent Tom Torlakson encourages educators to include technology in the classroom.
  • No Child Left Offline: State Superintendent Tom Torlakson encourages educators to include technology in the classroom.

Out with the old and in with the new. That is what the top state education official is pushing educators to embrace as he encourages 
the use of technology in classrooms.

Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of schools, took to Twitter on Thursday morning to interact with educators and the public as well as to share recommendations from his No Child Left Offline initiative. He said he hopes technology — including the use of smartphones — will be included rather than shunned in schools.

“Technology helps bridge some real gaps - it can be available anytime & anywhere to help expand learning for kids,” he tweeted during his conversation with the public.

His recommendations, however, would reverse a growing trend of schools and districts banning the devices on school grounds.

For instance, San Francisco Unified School District has tried to connect students with technology. One program offers refurbished, donated computers to low-income students to work at home. Another school used iPads as learning tools for algebra as part of a yearlong pilot program. Some students at Burton High School even started using Twitter for assignments, among a variety of other uses in the classroom.

The district’s handbook attempts to acknowledge the growing need for technology, while continuing to address the balance of keeping students on task and 
not disrupt classes by using a cellphone.

“Your cell phone and other electronic devices not required by your teacher for learning should always be turned off and placed away in your locker, or best kept at home,” the 2011-2012 policy states.

Gentle Blythe, a district spokeswoman, said as long as students have permission and it is part of a lesson, cellphones can be used in the classroom.

Cellphones, however, cannot be used in the hallways, according to the handbook.

The state report, which recommends expanded use of online instructional material, allowing every student access to at least one internet device and create personal assessments for students and their technology use, was compiled by a 48-member task force made up of teachers, administrators and researchers, to help create blueprint for California schools and technology.

Torlakson said times have changed and the state’s technology policy, which has not been updated for more than a decade, needs to change too.

“Schools prepare kids to be part of 21st Century economy - advanced technology vital to both their instruction & experience,” he tweeted.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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